This is a review of the Ted talk given by Allan Savory in February of 2013. You can watch the video here: Savory talk.
Savory begins his presentation by talking about climate change and how desertification (the process of land turning into desert) is a large problem. There are areas of land which are humid enough to maintain plant coverage on the ground no matter what we do. But the areas which we need to worry about are those that have months of humidity followed by months of dryness. He points out that everyone knows that the reason for desertification is livestock overgrazing the fields. But then he says that, just as we thought the world was flat, we were wrong.
He shares how, as a young biologist in Africa, he took part in creating large areas for future national parks. They removed the native people and the land started to deteriorate. He proved, and is colleagues agreed, that elephants were the problem. Over the years they killed 40,000 elephants. But the problem got worse. When he visited the United States he noticed that there were national parks that were going through desertification and the American scientists had no explanation except that it was arid and natural.
He then talks about bare ground versus ground that has coverage which changes the micro-climate and, ultimately, the macro-climate. He then shifted to discussing large herds and how there is safety in numbers against pack animals. As these herds graze they move from place to place urinating and defecating which gets trampled on the ground. If we are to remove the grazing animals then the grassland needs to decay biologically before the next growing season or the soil will start dying. An answer to this is to burn the grassland which is done at an enormous rate in Africa. Unfortunately it leaves the land completely bare.
He proposes that we take livestock and try to mimic nature to cease desertification by implementing holistic planned grazing. He gives an example where they increased the livestock herd by 400% and moved them in a planned manner on the land. Vegetation increased and the river was able to hold water. The argument is that by mimicking nature with herds of livestock we can reverse the climate change while feeding the world.
I find this to be a very hopeful message and one that I wish would be taken seriously. Just imagine if we would stop feeding corn to factory farmed livestock and went back to natural grazing. It would lower the feed cost, increase the productivity and health of the land, and it would improve the health of the livestock which would reduce, if not eliminate, the need for antibiotics.
Even though I live in the suburbs, I agree with Savory based on my own backyard experience. By promoting a diverse ecological system I have seen an increase in the health of my yard, plants and garden. The wild animals of our yard such as rabbits and squirrels help graze, urinate, defecate, and eat the “right” plants while allowing others to grow.